Clubbing for Classical Musicians: A Do-It-Yourself Guide to Working in Alternative Venues, by Sarah Robinson, the codirector of Classical Revolution: L.A. Since she co-runs an organization that fosters playing in clubs and is a veteran club player herself, her book is beyond authoritative.
And in fact you couldn’t find a more helpful guide, to something that more and more classical musicians are doing these days. It’s so helpful, in fact — and so thorough — that I’d reccommend it to any performing classical musician, even people who don’t play in clubs. In every chapter there’s a checklist, of things to know when you’re booking a gig, things to know before your performance, things to do when you get to the venue, and much more. These are so grounded, so thoroughly based on extensive experience, that I’d think they’d benefit anyone.
But of course it’s clubbing that Sarah wants to tell you about. She’s truly an authority, since her doctoral dissertation was about playing in clubs. If someday she publishes it, we’ll have by far the most detailed history of classical music clubbing (going back to past centuries), combined with the most detailed accounts of what classical musicians are doing now, that’s available anywhere.
But back to this book. At this point, I should just say that I wrote the introduction, and was greatly flattered to be asked to do it. And I should quote some of what I wrote. And then you should buy Sarah’s slim little paperback, a book with gems on every page, in which not a word is wasted. Buy it for yourself; buy it as a holiday gift. You can get it from Sarah’s website for $16.98, including shipping. You can also buy it from Amazon, but why not go straight to Sarah? That’s a better way to support her.
There’s also a Kindle version. Though you might want a print copy instead, so you can print out the checklists.
I should add that Sarah did two guest blog posts here about clubbing, full of terrific things (especially about her own club experience) that aren’t in her book. You’ll find her guest posts here and here.
From my intro:
I first met Sarah when she was writing her doctoral dissertation, a thorough study of classical musicians playing in clubs. Which she then magically transformed into this supremely useful and inspiring book.
She interviewed countless people for her dissertation, and I’d guess wanted to include me, because I’m often viewed as a point man for the future of classical music. Playing in clubs certainly moves toward that future, so why not talk to me?
But I had another view of it. I remember telling Sarah — and this was simply the honest truth, as I saw it — that I’d learn more from her than she’d learn from me.
And that’s exactly what I thought happened. I’ll never forget one moment in our conversation, when I said I thought there wasn’t much money in club performing, and that the financial model for making clubs part of classical music’s financial future didn’t yet exist.
Sarah quickly corrected me.…
In chapter five you can find what she said. Which was my first lesson from her. There’s more money than I thought in clubbing .
And there’s one more thing, which takes us back to the agitation I usually do on this blog, about how classical music should change. Because Sarah doesn’t just talk about clubbing as something fun and even lucrative that classical musicians can do. For her, it’s a door to the future:
This book, in a very cheerful way, is a manifesto, about how classical music needs to change. I know a bit about manifestos, because in my work on the future of classical music I’ve written some myself. This one stands out, because it’s so direct and friendly, though still it’s very firm. Without wasting time on anyone who might disagree with her, Sarah simply says:
Classical musicians performing in bars. clubs. and other new venues is about a lot more than booking additional gigs. It’s really about the direction classical music needs to move to be relevant in the 21st century.…
Working outside the ivory tower, in places where art and pop culture intersect, forces musicians to make their music and presentation relevant to their audience. The classical music industry needs to undergo this process of adaption to survive in the future.
There’s more, including some useful words about how hopeless the standard classical concert format is if you want a younger audience, but what I’ve quoted lies at the heart of what Sarah says. And of what classical music needs. I hope the leaders of the field are listening.
Since this is the Internet, with lurking trolls, I’ll say what shouldn’t need saying: That I wasn’t paid to write the intro, and don’t get a cent when you buy the book. I’m recommending it for your sake and for Sarah’s, not for anything it might do for me.